CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Excuse me, ma'am," a lady said to me. "Where did you move the baby department?"
It was somewhere around daybreak and I was part of the nut mob shopping at the mall, except by that point, I was no longer shopping but rather waiting somewhat numbly for my daughter and her friends to make their way back to the place we'd agreed to meet. I'd already taken my things out to the car, so I was simply roaming around the ladies' section at Macy's, entertaining myself by hanging up clothes that had slipped off hangers.
So there I was, bagless, coatless and purseless, straightening clothes, while dressed nearly all in black. Just the same as the staff.
Since I knew where the baby department had been moved, I gave the woman directions. Even walked part of the way with her so I could better show her. I'd have gone farther, except I was shanghaied by another customer wanting to know where to get boxes. Since I'd asked the same question earlier myself, I simply parroted what I'd been told.
It quickly became one of those situations that I'm convinced only happens to me. I was hit with back-to-back-to-back questions from customers, every one of which I was able to answer or assist, even though I only occasionally shop at Macy's.
It wasn't until someone asked about a brand I knew nothing about that I realized the corner into which I had painted myself. Several of my previous customers, plus one still waiting, were lingering nearby and I didn't want them to overhear me admit that I didn't actually work there, but was merely a half-cracked customer impersonating a saleswoman on the busiest day of the year.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm new here. You'll have to ask that lady at the counter."
I was assisting two ladies wearing pajamas when my daughter and her group finally arrived. I mumbled something to the ladies about being off the clock.